Letter to the Editor:
It’s that wonderful time of year again when Ontarians take to the outdoors, with all its colourful splendor and natural beauty. Only to again discover that more bush roads have been closed by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) with bridges and culverts removed and huge berms blocking roads to keep the locals from accessing our natural heritage. Many of these roads were built at taxpayers’ expense with empty government promises that we could use them.
There are two reasons why the MNR wants to keep ordinary citizens from enjoying their lakes and forests. The main one is to “protect remote tourism values” as the MNR so succinctly puts it, which translated means; “vast areas of pristine forests and over 2,000 of the north’s best lakes are reserved for paying tourists, and locals had better not drive on these roads to get to these lakes or they will be charged for trespassing”.
The second reason has to do with budget cuts to the enforcement branch of the MNR. The understaffed complement of Conservation Officers (C.O.’s) therefore has fewer roads and smaller areas to patrol and enforce the law. This is much cheaper than hiring more C.O’s.
While they are keeping locals from enjoying much of our public lands, the MNR has neglected much more serious issues, such as allowing the imminent destruction of the walleye fisheries in our popular Lake Nipissing.
According to knowledgeable conservationists, the main problem with the huge decline in Lake Nipissing walleye stock has been the unregulated commercial gill netting operations on the lake. Instead of tackling this very obvious problem, the MNR has reacted by imposing several restrictions on recreational anglers over the past fifteen years, but have done absolutely nothing about the commercial gill netters.
Many northerners had hoped that with the appointment of a northerner as MNR Minister, Michael Gravelle from Thunder Bay, that this Ministry would finally end its two-class public access policies and start listening to responsible outdoors enthusiasts and prominent conservationists, and concentrate on more important issues – like saving Lake Nipissing walleye fisheries.
But alas! It remains same old, same confused priorities.
Simon R. Guillet